Exclusive interview with Jukka Kantola, NISCluster: EU policies for the use of biomass are short-sighted


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“At the moment focus in European policies is to endorse biomass utilization for the energy applications. This is short-sighted, as on those applications biomass does not bring the best added value. Also there is not enough biomass in Europe to meet up all energy and climate target in EU-level. Biomass is more valuable on chemical and material applications”. To say it, in this exclusive interview with Il Bioeconomista, is Jukka Kantola, CEO of NISCluster, a Finnish private bioeconomy company with a focus on the woody biomass. With Kantola we talk about the bioeconomy in Finland, the EU policies and the different uses of biomass.

Interview by Mario Bonaccorso

Mr Kantola, tell us first what is the activity of the NISCluster?

NISCluster – Novel Ideas and Solutions – is a private bioeconomy company with a focus especially on the woody biomass. We are offering following services: evaluation services; market and strategy reviews; structuring programs for the enterprises; development programs.

We have experienced core team for different fields of bioeconomy i.e. bioenergy, biochemicals, biomaterials and mechanical wood industry.  Our main interest is with the fields where non-renewable resources can be substituted with renewable, sustainable biomass. By continuously expanding our global forest biomass value chain network we always assure the highest quality of resources to serve our clients. By close collaboration with leading institutes we keep our service offer up to date.

What is the situation of the bioeconomy in Finland? Do you have already a National Plan for the Bioeconomy?

Finland is progressing with the bioeconomy. Traditionally Finland has had strong forest industry serving paper and board applications. As the paper consumption of the paper is decreasing there ever more forest resources available for other bioeconomy applications. At the moment Finland use about good half of the forest’s annual growth. Annual growth is well above 100 million m3. National bioeconomy is not yet published. We’ll hope that it will be launched by summer.

What are the major players in the Finnish bioeconomy?

Forest companies like UPM, Stora Enso and Metsä Group are the major players due their nature and background of the business. Recently they have come up with new investments to facilitate bioeconomy. Metsä Group just announced major investment on bio products, which is worth of 1,1 Billion €. Also there are companies like Neste Oil, which is focusing on biofuels. Their expertise is with biodiesel. Another major player in bioenergy is Fortum – they just got started with the world biggest pyrolysis plant in Joensuu with 50.000 ton annual capacity of bio-oil. All above are big players. Besides them there are good number of smaller players regionally.

How do you consider the European policies to support the bioeconomy?

At the moment focus in European policies is to endorse biomass utilization for the energy applications. This is short-sighted, as on those applications biomass does not bring the best added value. Also there is not enough biomass in Europe to meet up all energy and climate target in EU-level. Biomass is more valuable on chemical and material applications. On those applications CO2-emissions can be also reduced.

There is much discussion recently about the review of RED in order to further encourage the use of biomass to produce biochemicals. What is your point of view?

We salute this initiative with a great pleasure. Actually we’ve been promoting the same measures in the different forums since summer 2013. We’d like to add on mechanical forest industry and wood construction as a vital part of the bioeconomy. Mechanical forest sector accounts about about half of the forest use in Europe. It also generates residuals over 50% of the raw material intake. By cascading use these streams are available for more valuable biotech applications.

Finland is a country certainly rich in biomass. How strategic is for the bio-economy to have today the availability of biomass?

Accessibility of sustainable biomass is one of the key things. Finland has well maintained forests and infra is established. This is brings surely a sound platform for the biotech investments.  Like in petrochemicals tendency is to get closer to raw materials, the very same goes well with bio-investments. Finland is having biomass and best value it can create by having processing units next to biomass sources. Relatively speaking, logistic costs will go down as the value of the product increases.

One thought on “Exclusive interview with Jukka Kantola, NISCluster: EU policies for the use of biomass are short-sighted

  1. Manfred Kircher 3 May 2014 / 2:44 pm

    Jukka Kantola is absolutely right when asking for more cascade use of biomass. Producing chemicals from biomass not only adds more value but also generates more jobs in diverse industries and fixes carbon in durable goods. Not only biomass should be considered but all kinds of organic feedstock (industrial side streams, municipal waste…). Producing energy should be the last step of feedstock cascading.
    However, as feedstock is the most relevant cost driver in producing chemicals the cost of (bio-)carbon needs to be brought down to a level which is competitive with fossil carbon. This is not only growing biomass but also harvesting, collecting, pre-processing, storing, shipping…. – the whole logistics system. In Europe BIG-C, a Smart Specialization Initiative by Flanders, The Netherlands and NRW (Germany) is going to address this issue.

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